Interleukin 1a (IL-1a), a signaling molecule secreted by macrophages-immune cells that engulf pathogens or molecules for cellular disposal-when exposed to unsaturated fatty acids, may be a potent driver of atherosclerosis, according to a report published in Nature Immunology.
Accumulation of lipids, most notably cholesterol and its derivatives, in the artery walls leads to activation of macrophages,which engulf lipids, leading to inflammation and the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. It was previously shown that cholesterol crystals in the plaques trigger the macrophages to secrete IL-1b, which is linked to atherosclerotic inflammation and disease.
However, Stefan Freigang and colleagues find that unsaturated fatty acids that accumulate over time in the atherosclerotic plaques of mice fed a high-fat diet induce IL-1a and suppress IL-1b secretion by macrophages. Further understanding of the individual contributions of IL-1a and IL-1b to atherosclerosis will provide important insight into possible therapies for this disease.